COM­MEN­TARY: NEW MI­GRANTS ARE PIL­GRIMS, TOO

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - Sports - Email es­ther­j­[email protected] wash­post.com BY ES­THER J. CEPEDA Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group

We’re near­ing the end of a long, har­row­ing year in which Lati­nos have faced daily de­mo­niza­tion. We’ve watched hor­ri­fy­ing im­ages of women and chil­dren from Mex­ico, Cen­tral and South Amer­ica caged like an­i­mals at the bor­der, and we have en­dured pub­lic hu­mil­i­a­tion and vi­o­lence from peo­ple em­bold­ened by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ran­cor to­ward vir­tu­ally any­one who isn’t white and male.

Last week, the pres­i­dent re­leased a Thanks­giv­ing procla­ma­tion val­oriz­ing the pil­grims who ar­rived on Na­tive Amer­i­can land to “es­tab­lish a home in the New World” af­ter fac­ing “ill­ness, harsh con­di­tions, and un­cer­tainty, as they trusted in God for a brighter fu­ture.” Days later, we saw Amer­i­can bor­der pa­trol of­fi­cers shoot­ing rub­ber bul­lets at fam­i­lies massed at the bor­der and seek­ing to ex­er­cise their le­gal right to plead for asy­lum.

Only the will­fully blind could ig­nore the par­al­lels be­tween those white, an­gelic pil­grims of the past and the dusty, dark­skinned mi­grants now walk­ing from Hon­duras and other Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­tries to the U.S. bor­der, telling re­porters along the way they hoped Trump would “open the doors for us.”

Here we are, again gap­ing at pho­tos of what sure looks like in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions: U.S. Bor­der Pa­trol guards shoot­ing chem­i­cal weapons can­is­ters into a crowd on the Mex­i­can side of the shared bor­der at Ti­juana, as moth­ers chok­ing on tear gas cover the faces of their ba­bies and chil­dren still in di­a­pers.

So much for “treat­ing all with char­ity and mu­tual re­spect, spread­ing the spirit of Thanks­giv­ing through­out our coun­try and across the world.”

It is painful to see these events un­fold, though there’s al­ways the hope that such grue­some vi­su­als will shock peo­ple into mus­ter­ing an ounce of pity for those who are in such dire straits that they’ve put their faith in Trump’s ca­pac­ity for com­pas­sion.

Con­sid­er­ing that Trump or­dered 5,200 troops to an al­ready for­ti­fied bor­der, what hope do Cen­tral Amer­i­cans have? A sliver, at least.

For one, to the siz­able pan-His­panic pop­u­la­tion in the United States, the mi­grants we see on TV and in pho­tos aren’t fright­en­ing or for­eign — they look, act and sound like our fam­i­lies, our friends and our neigh­bors.

Mi­grants from south of the bor­der have a proven track record of com­ing to the U.S. and not only thriv­ing, but con­tribut­ing to both the econ­omy and our cul­ture while si­mul­ta­ne­ously as­sim­i­lat­ing — see­ing them­selves as fully “Amer­i­can” — even while ex­hibit­ing pride in their her­itage.

Most of all, we must re­mem­ber that we are not im­po­tent on­look­ers; we have some in­flu­ence over what hap­pens to these mod­ern-day pil­grims at our bor­der.

“Ev­ery day Amer­i­cans have to stand up and say, ‘I am a leader in my com­mu­nity and I think this is wrong,’” said Ali Noorani, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the non­par­ti­san Na­tional Im­mi­gra­tion Fo­rum. “Amer­i­cans have to press their in­sti­tu­tional lead­ers — go to their pas­tors, po­lice chiefs and school prin­ci­pals and ask them to go to leg­is­la­tors. On­line dis­sent and shar­ing of these im­ages is im­por­tant. But what’s go­ing to cap­ture the at­ten­tion of the ad­min­is­tra­tion in a dif­fer­ent way is for our lo­cal civic in­sti­tu­tions to help speak to gov­ern­ment lead­ers for us and say, ‘This does not rep­re­sent us, or who we are.’”

There are many or­ga­ni­za­tions you can donate to that are at­tempt­ing to aid the mi­grants who have amassed in Ti­juana. But just reach­ing out to any­one who has the clout to talk to peo­ple in Wash­ing­ton can move things in the right di­rec­tion. Let peo­ple know that lob­bing tear gas at women and chil­dren is un­ac­cept­able. It’s bet­ter than just feel­ing help­less and sad in front of your TV or so­cial me­dia feed.

SO MUCH FOR “TREAT­ING ALL WITH CHAR­ITY AND MU­TUAL RE­SPECT, SPREAD­ING THE SPIRIT OF THANKS­GIV­ING ...

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